Artworks Installed in Department


Triangulation – panels 1 and 2

All of the photographic artworks have now been installed in the Archaeology Department.

Triangulation – panel 3

The triptych Triangulation is in position over three floors from the entrance lobby up the main stairs to the first and second floors. The triptych represents the process of archaeology from fieldwork to dissemination of knowledge in a 1.4m wide ‘archaeological section’. As with a section through stratigraphic deposits, the older layers are at the bottom and represent the earliest activities in creating archaeological narratives – survey, excavation, etc.

Sorting Seeds, Bioarchaeology Lab

The prints are in the labs the images relate to. These are the Robert Kiln Landscape Lab, Materials Sciences lab, Bioarchaeology lab and the joint Osteological/Zooarchaeological lab. All apart from the landscape artwork were taken in the labs they are now embedded in. The landscape artwork was created from images taken on a field course in Snowdonia.

Analysing Pot Sherds, Material Sciences Lab

Taping Landscapes, Robert Kiln Landscapes Lab


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Diggers Exhibition

The final exhibition of the residency has now come to an end after a successful seven days in the Jessop West Exhibition Space.Over 160 people visited the exhibition over 7 days, 38 of these delegates at the Assembling Archaeology exhibition which was held for a day in the exhibition space.

The exhibition combined the triptych, photographic prints, a visual poem, time lapse sequences, a visual anthropology of the department and an AV presentation. I also displayed some photographs from my Stonehenge: Henge Diggers exhibition displayed in The Manchester Museum earlier in the year.

The tryptich could not, unfortunately, be displayed in full due to one panel being too heavy to hang. It was displayed with the three pairs of panels side-by-side rather than one above the other as they will be mounted in the department.

The photographic prints comprise all the images which will be hung in various labs in the department. These include images relating to landscape survey, osteological and archaeobotanical study, the zooarchaeological reference collection and the material analysis of pot sherds.

The visual poem was the Day in the Life of a Survey Tape which you can see on YouTube.

The time-lapse sequences break down acts of excavation into freeze-frame meditations to highlight the repetitive nature of digging. These too are on YouTube.

The visual anthropology represents a year in the working life of the archaeology department. It brought together all of the photographs in this website’s galleries.

The AV presentation comprised the audio recordings of the staff life stories played alongside photographic images of the members of staff and the tools they chose as most important to their work. One of these, of Mike Parker Pearson, is also on YouTube.

A comments book was kept which provided interesting insights into visitors’ reactions to the exhibition.

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Post Conference

Yesterday was the Assembling Archaeology conference. This was one of the culminations of the residency which brought together over 35 archaeologists, artists, film media practitioners, social scientists and others to hold a dialogue on the relationships between artists and archaeologists.

The debate was largely mediated through examples of practice though the day was set-up eloquently and incisively by Helen Wickstead who discussed the notion of objectivity in science and the view of art as a discipline from the scientific community. Bob Johnston and myself reviewed the artistic residency and our collaboration at Sheffield. There followed presentations by Paul Evans, Mark Anstee and Simon Callery on their art practices working with archaeologists and at archaeological sites. Paul discussed his sketches made from bone at Cardiff University, Mark his work tagging and delineating the Stonehenge Cursus in partnership with Manchester University, and Simon his Segsbury Project in collaboration with Oxford Archaeology. Antonia Thomas reviewed the Monumental Visions: Art and Archaeology in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site which she initiated in 2009. Angela Piccini discussed her artistic practice as a film artist and the roles of film media.

Various artists contributed showreels of work and Aaron Watson introduced his film Stones from the Sky about Great Langdale’s Neolithic axe factories.

The day successfully provided evidence for inspirational art-archaeology partnerships and interventions, and generated wide-ranging and thought-provoking conversations and discussions. There were some quite challenging questions of speakers and many stimulating contributions from all present.

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University Press Release

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Brodsworth Community Archaeology Project

Fields around the village of Hickleton, Doncaster, are full of holes. Big holes, small holes, and sometimes very deep holes. These are being dug by archaeologists working on the Brodsworth Community Archaeology Project. This is directed by the Archaeology Department at Sheffield in partnership with Hull University.

The archaeologists have a short time window between harvest and sowing in this rolling fertile landscape of hedged arable crops when they can dig and do geophysical survey into the remains of long time.

The hard, yellow limestone soils are pungent when dug into, and they hide the archaeological features well. Differences between natural soils and soils backfilled into ditches and pits are hard, if not impossible, to discern. The archaeologists know from geophysics the filled-in ditches are there even if there is no sign of them after stripping back the topsoil. Cunning yet brutal strategies are developed to tease out the features, requiring rectangular trenches to be sunk deep into the ground to reveal the sections of the filled ditches in the trenches vertical sides.

From the side of the field groups of people can be seen hunched over in the trenched frames sunk into the ground amongst wheat stubble. Under heavycast skies of laden clouds, these could be Van Gogh’s farm labourers working away after harvest or Lincolnshire potato pickers rather than students and academics investigating Doncaster’s past.

Over time, with as much heavy mattocking as gentle trowelling, prehistoric and Romano-British field and enclosure ditches are scooped clean to expose limestone bedrock. Pottery sherds and animal bones are found, bagged and registered. These will later be used to build the narratives of the past lives of the people who dug these ditches thousands of years before the archaeologists. People who worked in groups to toil the land to grow crops.

Photographs from Brodsworth.



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Timelapsed Archaeologists

I’ve posted online a sample of the type of timelapse sequences I am producing for the exhibition at the end of the residency. The slideshow format of WordPress doesn’t allow the quick pace or smooth transitions that the actual timelapses will have but it gives a flavour of the work I am doing on breaking down the archaeological process into time slices to show the repetitiveness of work.

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Heeley City Farm

Today I spent the afternoon at a very different type of dig to the others I have been on. It is urban and is investigating the near past. Students and members of the local community are digging the cellars and back gardens of a row of terrace houses demolished during the second half of the 20th Century. The interest in this direct link with the past is strong and memories circulate on site as finds are made and structures revealed. The brackets for electricity meters, light bulbs, newspapers and old mats are some of the things being discovered. Many objects are those left in the cellars by the occupants when they left their homes prior to demolition. These are the sorts of things we all have in our cellars – the stored away things that never had that use one day. Many of the volunteers probably live in houses very similar to these.

You can see the photographs here.

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